FIBA: Young vets Go, Nieto ready for leadership roles in Gilas

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 22 2020 11:54 AM

Point guard Matt Nieto is one of the four holdovers from the Gilas Pilipinas team in February 2020.

MANILA, Philippines -- While it is true that the Gilas Pilipinas team competing in the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifying window is a youthful one, the players are not entirely devoid of experience when it comes to international basketball.

With PBA players either still competing in the Philippine Cup or recovering from a tough campaign in the bubble, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) opted to put together a young team composed of fresh graduates and collegiate players.

Anchoring the team are the four players who already saw action in the February 2020 qualifying window: Isaac Go, Dwight Ramos, Juan Gomez de Liano, and Matt Nieto. Kobe Paras has also been tabbed as a potential leader of the squad, thanks in part to his experience in playing international hoops for flag and country.

"There's really no additional pressure in terms of leading the team now, because there's already been pressure since we have to rep the country well," Go said during a press conference last Friday, wherein the members of the team were introduced.

"But in terms of getting the team, the guys ready for international play, I think we've been sharing them words of wisdom on how it really is," he added.

For the four players who suited up in February, they had the luxury of learning from the veterans who also competed for Gilas at the time. 

NLEX guard Kiefer Ravena had served as the team's captain when they played in February, while the TNT trio of Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario, and Poy Erram also saw action in Gilas' 100-70 demolition of Indonesia. Justin Chua of Phoenix Super LPG, Abu Tratter of Alaska, and CJ Perez of TerraFirma Dyip also represented Gilas in February.

"Playing with the pros like Kiefer, CJ, kasi marami silang naturo sa aming mga young guns," noted Nieto. "So it's our time now, kami nila Isaac, Dwight, Juan, na ibalik sa mga rookies na maglalaro for the first time dito sa window."

"Magiging role model kami, maging influencer kami inside the court, so they know how we should play, especially 'yung mga first time na maglalaro sa international competition," he added.

Go says it's up to them to "continue the cycle" and show the younger players how to play at an international level. While some members of the current roster have represented the Philippines in youth events, there are also those who are suiting up for Gilas for the first time.

"We're just passing on the knowledge that the veterans that we had, the wise words that the veterans from the first window gave us," said Go. "We're just forwarding it to them, and hopefully continuing the cycle in improving and making sure everybody is ready."

The team leaves for Bahrain today, before they play Thailand twice on November 27 and 30. 

Gilas Pilipinas currently has a 1-0 record in Group A on account of their victory over Indonesia in February. South Korea, which has a 2-0 record, won't play in the Bahrain bubble after their federation withdrew due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

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